Garden’s Bounty: An Awesome Marinara!

Garden’s bounty is upon us and, thankfully, I’m literally up to my elbows in those luscious Indiana tomatoes we all covet. I’ve roasted them with eggplant, herbs and parmesan into an amazing tian. I’ve made my favorite fresh chopped salsa. I’ve eaten them with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper at each and every meal. I’ve given a fair number away.

But by far, my favorite thing to do with tomatoes is make them into a very simple marinara and freeze or can it for a quick blast of summer in January. Marinara is the perfect backdrop for so many dishes. In winter I’ll sauté whatever veggies are available and add a jar my sauce to make pasta or rice dishes. I’ll make a frittata and use the marinara as a sauce topping. I’ll open a jar, add some oregano and a pinch of sugar, and cook it down to a thick pizza sauce. The options are endless really.

I really like the stripped-down five-ingredient simplicity of this recipe. I also like this recipe because it doesn’t require peeling tomatoes and it doesn’t ask you to mince garlic. The end result goes into a blender where it becomes a smooth sauce with no traces of garlic chunks or tomato peel. It saves a lot of work and when you’re up to your elbows in tomatoes, that’s a very good thing! This recipe can also be doubled or even tripled if you have a stock pot or pan large enough.

Here’s the basic recipe:

¼ cup olive oil

1 ½ cup chopped onions

6 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

salt to taste

3 tablespoons fresh basil, snipped

Heat olive oil in 4 qt. saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cook until soft and golden, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.* Stir in basil and remove from heat.

*The length of time will depend on the type of tomatoes you’re using and their water content. Paste tomatoes varieties such as Roma and San Marzano are meatier with less water and will require less time to cook down. Slicing tomatoes such as Big Boys, Celebrities, Brandywines, etc. will be much juicier and take more time. Ultimately, you will decide the consistency you desire and the time it takes to get there.

At this point you can prepare the marinara for freezing or for canning. I prefer pint-sized containers for my family. Quarts might be best for yours.

If freezing, cool to room temperature then, working in batches, blend to a smooth consistency. Pack into freezer-safe containers, filling to about a half inch from the top. Sauce may expand with ice crystals as it freezes so give it a little headroom.

When I’m running out of freezer space or want to make gifts of marinara, I can it in pint jars. While canning is relatively easy, I strongly recommend that you consult with the USDA or another trusted source for instructions on how to can and follow their instructions exactly. Botulism is nothing to fool with and can be avoided but only with deliberate care. Here’s the USDA’s site: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

Enjoy! Lorrie Heber

Local meat from your local 4-H? Awesome!

(by Aaron Warner, board member)

Ten years ago I had not even heard of the slow food movement. Neither did I know that the average bite of food traveled around 1500 miles from field to table. When I first read that statistic, I searched and found the same rough number quoted again and again. I can understand this statistic with respect to bananas and oranges, but why should we be buying pork from corporation owned confined feeding operations
(CFOs) in the southern states when we can raise them right here? Enter the local county fair. A hobby farmer friend of mine told me two summers ago that there is nothing like 4H pork. This summer my son raised his first two pigs at my friend’s farm. Let me tell you, they were well taken care of pigs. The pigs were checked twice a day. Those checks, in addition to watering and checking the feed, included a good petting and scratching, hosing down, filling of the mud wallow and a snack of expired bread items , garden and fruit scraps. My mother, when taking my son to check the pigs would pull up a five gallon bucket and sit and give the pigs loving while they did their best to eat her shoelaces. The pigs, named Brick and Borca, had a great summer. Each of them could cool off in the barn shade in front of a fan or enjoy the sun outside. Believe me; their lives were much better than the pigs in a CFO. Brick was auctioned off while Borca was taken to be processed into our favorite choice of cuts last Wednesday. I can almost guarantee it will be the best pulled pork and polish sausage we’ve ever had.

About now, you might be asking yourself why I’m writing this. Simple, the average consumer can choose to purchase local meat, while also supporting local 4Hers. All you have to do is to go to the 4H auction at the end of the fair in July and bid. This is truly a win-win situation. You get a bunch of the best meat you’ll ever have and without the hassle of raising the animal yourself. Many 4H members use the money from the livestock auction for college money or for seed money for next year’s animal. If a 280 pound pig is too much meat, the processor will divide it between two families. You could also choose to donate a portion to a food pantry. Quality protein is always one of the more difficult items to procure.